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Lead Found in Lunchables Food Kits. Consumer Reports Urges Removal from National School Lunch Program.

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on May 13, 2024

Lead found in Lunchables food kits.

Recent testing by the consumer advocacy group, Consumer Reports, finds lead in Lunchables food kits. These kits qualify for the National School Lunch Program, and Consumer Reports wants to change this.

What is Consumer Reports?

Consumer Reports, founded in 1936, is an “independent, nonprofit member organization that works side by side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace.”

Consumer Reports is an “independent, nonprofit member organization that works side by side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace.”

This organization provides reviews and conducts research on a variety of consumer products. Everything from cars, home & garden, health & wellness, and pretty much anything the informed consumer wants to know about.

The organization provides a credible source with trustworthy information.

In some cases, the organization approaches lawmakers, and organizations with research findings to help keep the consumer safe. In this case, the advocacy group is looking at food kits that are a part of the Nation School Lunch Program. Their studies found these meal kits are potentially harmful.

Many parents and children rely on the National School Lunch Program. Parents consider the food offered to their children is safe for them, and generally do not need to give it a second thought.

Until now.

The National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program was established in 1946 and is a federally assisted meal program that operates within public and nonprofit private schools as well as residential childcare institutions.

The program provides nutritionally balanced, low- or no-cost lunches to children each school day.

It is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and helps feed kids across the country.

In its first year, the program had about 7.1 million participants. By 1970 it had 22.4 million enrolled children. By 2016 there were 30.4 million children enrolled in the program.

In 2019, the program provided 4.8 billion meals to school children nationwide.

In 2019, the National School Lunch Program provided 4.8 billion meals to school children nationwide.

These recipes have come a long way since I was a child. A brief look at the approved recipes includes Asian Tuna Burgers, Aztec Grain Salad, Barbacoa Beef Street Tacos and more!

Lunchables and Similar Food Kits Added to National School Lunch Program

Select Kraft Heinz products were recently listed on the National School Lunch Program available food item list. This means that these select products will be available nationwide to all school administrators to purchase and offer to students.

It was unclear as to whether it was simply available to students for purchase in the lunchroom or offered for free through the National School Lunch Program. However, with the items on the list, the administration could likely use their own discretion.

Carlos Abrams-Rivera, Kraft Heinz executive vice president, indicated that these new National School Lunch Program offerings are separate from the Lunchables sold in grocery stores, though there are talks of rolling these items out to the public eventually. The National School Lunch Program products come with “improved nutrition” that complies with the Program requirements and was available for K-12 schools nationwide as of this fall.

These new versions of Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Stackers and Extra Cheesy Pizza contain more whole grains and protein compared to commercially available products.

Is it a good idea to serve children processed food as part of a school lunch program? While convenient and an occasional treat, lunch meats and crackers are highly processed foods.

Are they safe?

Recent Consumer Reports testing revealed concerning results.

Consumer Reports Testing Reveals Lead Found in Lunchables

Recent testing conducted by Consumer Reports not only identified lead in Lunchables and other similar food kits, but also high levels of cadmium and sodium. All but one of the food kits tested also contained harmful phthalates.

Lead, cadmium, phthalates, and high levels of sodium found in lunch kit products.


Phthalates are “known endocrine disruptors.” These chemicals can mimic or interfere with hormones in the body. These chemicals, found in plastics, have been linked to reproductive problems, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Lead and Cadmium

Lead and cadmium, even in small amounts, has been found to cause developmental problems in children over time.


Testing also revealed that the “improved nutrition” formulation also comes with even higher levels of sodium than the kits available to consumers in stores. Commercially available lunch kits came in at nearly a quarter to half of a child’s daily recommended sodium limit.

The National School Lunch Program versions, with a larger portion of meat contained higher amounts of sodium. For example, the Turkey and Cheddar kit for schools contained 930 mg of sodium compared to 740mg in store-bought versions.

Increased sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure and hypertension. Both are risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

Testing Revealed Lead Found in Lunchables and Similar Products

The Kraft Heinz food kits were not the only products analyzed. Consumer Reports not only called out the Lunchables brand, but also tested 12 store-bought versions of Lunchables and similar food kits.

Similar kits from Armour LunchMakers, Good & Gather, Greenfield Natural Meat Co., and Oscar Mayer showed similar results.

“Lunchables are not a healthy option for kids and shouldn’t be allowed on the menu as part of the National School Lunch Program,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer reports.

The agency launched a petition to the USDA to have it removed from the Program.

“The Lunchables and similar lunch kits we tested contain concerning levels of sodium and harmful chemicals that can lead to serious health problems over time. The USDA should remove Lunchables from the National School Lunch Program and ensure that kids in schools have healthier options.”

Symptoms of Lead Toxicity

Symptoms of lead toxicity vary from person to person as well as other factors such length of exposure. Short term exposure often results in symptoms involving acute symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain/colic, vomiting, and/or anemia.

Longer-term exposure present more systemic symptoms, including:

  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning
  • Occasional abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentration/Muscular exhaustibility
  • Headache
  • Tremor
  • Weight loss

It is difficult for young children to articulate many of these symptoms, so often this type of illness goes underdiagnosed unless extreme symptoms are observed, or the child is screened for blood lead toxicity.

Does Your Child Have Lead, Cadmium, or Phthalate Toxicity?

Lead toxicity is serious, particularly in small children. The FDA advises caregivers to talk to their child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test if you suspect your child might have lead, cadmium, or phthalate toxicity.

Reach out to a food poisoning lawyer if you have questions about lead found in Lunchables food kits available at your child’s school. The experienced lawyers at The Lange Law Firm can help determine if you have a case and how to navigate this scary situation. As a caregiver, you may feel powerless when it comes to this situation, a child becoming sick from eating something that should have been safe. A food poisoning lawyer can help. Reach out for a free consultation at (833) 330-3663 or click here to email.

By: Heather Van Tassell (content writer, non-lawyer)